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Manchester MBAs Apply Big Data Analytics To Sports

Three Manchester MBAs recently joined an MIT conference on how to use big data analytics in soccer, baseball and more! If you're a gambling man, read on...

By  Ifeatu Nnaobi

Tue Mar 26 2013

Experts from the tech, business and sport worlds recently gathered at MIT to discuss how big data analytics can improve performance and prediction in sport.

Three Manchester Business School MBA students who are experts in the area also went along to pitch their ideas!

Jason Havinga, Rachel Grunwerg and Reid Howard recently attended the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston, and competed in their Case Pitch. The trio were eager to share some of the exciting knowledge they’d gained at the conference and took time out from studying for their semester exams to speak to BusinessBecause.

Sports analytics simply explained is using statistics to make educated decisions and predict future performances. It is relevant in any sport, and data can be collected to address any issue. The major challenge is figuring out what data is relevant and making sense of it all.
According to Jason, Rachel and Reid, sports analytics happens to be most popular in the USA. It originated from the game of baseball where virtually everything in the game can be measured.

Unlike in soccer where a player might spend a lot of time running around the field without touching the ball or directly contributing to the game, each hit or run in baseball can be measured.

Sports analytics can also be used to calculate injury prevention by measuring how long players last in the game and their carbon dioxide levels. It can also measure consumer behaviour and be applied to ticket pricing and segmenting markets.

Jason, Rachel and Reid were buzzing from the energy and the excitement of being part of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference and the case competition attached to it.
They became friends on the Manchester MBA and bonded over their love of sports. This bond grew stronger as they applied for the conference and prepared to participate in the competition.

Jason comes from Washington DC and worked in project management for the US Navy. Rachel comes from Sheffield and worked with her family business selling kitchen accessories and appliances. Reid also comes from the US but worked in personal financial planning before the MBA.

They knew that Manchester Business School places a huge focus on “applied learning” and so decided to spend time researching the possibility of getting involved in competitions during the programme. Fortunately for them they stumbled on the Sloan Conference.

The MIT Sports Analytics Conference gave the team the chance to meet with different professionals in the sports industry. It ran for two days and featured various panel speakers who discussed issues ranging from sports marketing in the digital age to injury analytics, to predicting the future of motorsports.
One of their favourite panel sessions was on betting and it featured a professional gambler and a bookie on different sides of the debate.

The competition which they had to enter prior to arriving at the conference involved presenting a solution for Major League Baseball TV to increase its revenue.

They were given a large amount of statistical data and had to work on a way to maximize subscribers and bring in people sitting on the fence without undercutting services.

To get to the conference, they had the backing of the entire MBA team. They convinced the Dean of the merits of the conference and she agreed for the school to provide them with financial sponsorship. They also had the rest of the school behind them.

Rachel said, “We are such a close cohort. We know what each other is doing, who is representing the school in what competition and the entire class gets behind them. And it is not only in competitions, everyone is very supportive in general”.

Attending the conference affirmed what Jason, Rachel and Reid thought already: that there were career opportunities in the field of sports analytics, something they would love to pursue careers in after the MBA.

Reid would love to use sports analytics to manage his favourite football team the Washington RedSkins. Rachel would like to work in branding or advertising with a sports company or one that is heavily involved in sports, for example in sponsoring events or teams. Jason would like to manage a team MoneyBall-style. MoneyBall is a Hollywood flick starring Brad Pitt as a team manager who brought his poorly performing team to the World Series.

Jason explained that a team that might not have as large of financial resources like Queens Park Rangers compared to a Manchester United, could use analytics to identify players that have been undervalued by other teams.  


Read more stories about students, alumni and programmes at Manchester Business School here